Climate Change in Hell? Murdoch Australian Papers will Now Support Science

September 6, 2021

Sydney Morning Herald:

News Corp Australia, an influential player in Australia’s decade-long climate wars, will end its long-standing editorial hostility towards carbon reduction policies and advocate for the world’s leading economies to hit net zero emissions by 2050.

The owner of some of the nation’s most-read newspapers, including the Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and 24-hour news channel Sky News Australia will from mid-October begin a company-wide campaign promoting the benefits of a carbon-neutral economy as world leaders prepare for a critical climate summit in Glasgow later this year.

Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire has faced growing international condemnation and pressure from advertisers over its editorial stance on climate change, which has long cast doubt over the science behind global warming and has since 2007 attacked various federal government efforts to reduce emissions.

The unrelenting negative publicity peaked in global outlets such as The New York Times and Financial Times during Australia’s deadly bushfires almost two years ago, which triggered a comment from Murdoch’s youngest son, James Murdoch, who publicly denounced the outlets’ “ongoing denial” of climate changeMr Murdoch quit the News Corp board last August, citing concerns about its editorial stance.

From October 17, the company will run a two-week campaign that will advocate for a carbon net zero target to be reached by 2050, which is expected to focus heavily on jobs in a decarbonised economy, particularly blue-collar industries such as mining, resources and agriculture. The campaign, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans who spoke anonymously because they are confidential, said it will be fronted by news.com.au columnist and former Studio 10 host, Joe Hildebrand.

Several sources said Sky News will support the cause that will feature across the metropolitan tabloid mastheads. The Hildebrand-led campaign will not appear in the national masthead, The Australian, they said, but the newspaper will continue to temper its editorial stance on the issue.

A plan has been devised to limit – but not muzzle – dissenting voices among News Corp’s stable of conservative commentators, who will be expected to reframe their political arguments both in print and on its subscription news channel, which is now broadcast across regional Australia on free-to-air on WIN.

A spokesman for News Corp Australia declined to comment on Sunday.

The timing of News Corp’s campaign, which is expected to include a 16-page spread, coincides with the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in November, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has encouraged wealthy nations to increase their emissions reduction ambitions

The switch in editorial position will likely attract global attention, particularly in America, where Murdoch’s media outlets, such as Fox News, have also been accused by Republican politicians of undermining global efforts on climate change. Mr Murdoch, now 90, also remains an influential figure in British politics, mainly through his newspapers, The Sun and The Times. But his eldest son, Lachlan Murdoch, who is the co-executive chairman of News Corp, is more involved in the newspaper business than his father.

Both the British government and United States President Joe Biden’s administration have made direct pleas to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in recent weeks to commit to a net zero target by 2050 and consider increasing its 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels.

Senior government sources with knowledge of internal negotiations between Mr Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, whose ascension as Nationals leader in June threatened to derail plans, are yet to reach an outcome, but both parties remain hopeful they will get what they want. Sources say increasing the 2030 target also remains an option.

Mr Morrison has subtly shifted his rhetoric on emissions reductions since his shock May 2019 victory, with the government now on the verge of adopting the once highly contentious target. Mr Joyce has been clear that he will not commit to greater targets of the 2050 deadline unless there is some form of protection or compensation for industries based in regional Australia, primarily agriculture.

The Morrison government has been privately briefed on News Corp plans by management, but both parties say there has been no collusion on the campaign. A government source not authorised to speak on the record said it was a welcome development, but simply a corporate decision by the company.

Newspapers within the News Corp stable have for years taken aim at policies that reduce carbon emissions and have been widely viewed in political circles as contributors in the downfall of prime ministers Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull. Leading up to the 2019 election, The Daily Telegraphdescribed Labor’s climate change policy under then leader of the opposition Bill Shorten as “Carbon Bill’s Green Whack” and the “lunchbox tax”.

However, sources within the organisation say the business is also feeling pressure from its major advertisers and its efforts to attract a greater subscriber base for some of its premium content.

ncreasingly, leading corporations such as Woolworths, Macquarie Group and Telstra are pushing their green credentials. Even some mining companies have backed in net zero by 2050 as a growing number of banks, insurers and institutional investors accelerate moves to divest coal assets and pledged not to make new investments in the industry, over concerns about fossil fuel’s contribution to global warming.

News Corporation’s own global environmental targets now include reducing its fuel and electricity emissions 60 per cent by 2030 on a 2016 base year, reduced supply chain carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.

People familiar with the company’s inner workings deny any editorial shift was designed to support or give cover to a particular political leader or to convince the public to change their mind. They say News Corp executives and editors have changed based on what the readers believe and want.

Data shows climate change policy is increasingly important to Australians. An exclusive survey, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by research company Resolve Strategic in June, found the majority of Australians want the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The organisation’s climate coverage has also been a sensitive topic within its ranks, with former commercial finance manager Emily Townsend, firing off an all-staff email following her resignation last year, accusing the organisation of a misinformation campaign filled with “irresponsible” and “dangerous” coverage of the national bushfire crisis.

News Corp Australia’s executive chairman, Michael Miller said at the time he understood Townsend’s concerns, but did not agree with them.

“News Corp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat,” Miller said. “However, we – as is the traditional role of a publisher – do report a variety of views and opinions on this issue.”

However, the editorial position of the papers has slowly shifted since. After James Murdoch’s criticism, the NT News ran a front page with the headline: “Now is the time to discuss climate change”. Editorials in The Daily Telegraph and The Australian were more moderate, advocating for the climate change debate to be taken forward.

New York Times:

SYDNEY, Australia — After years of casting doubt on climate change and attacking politicians who favored corrective action, Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets in his native Australia are planning an editorial campaign next month advocating a carbon-neutral future.

Depending on its content, the project, described by executives at Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp on Monday, could be a breakthrough that provides political cover for Australia’s conservative government to end its refusal to set ambitious emission targets. If sustained, it could also put pressure on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets in the United States and Britain that have been hostile to climate science.

But critics, including scientists who have been a target of News Corp’s climate combat, warned that the effort could be little more than window dressing that leaves decades of damage intact.

“Color me skeptical,” said Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Until Rupert Murdoch and News Corp call off their attack dogs at Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, who continue to promote climate change disinformation on a daily basis, these are hollow promises that should be viewed as a desperate ploy to rehabilitate the public image of a leading climate villain.”

Sky tends to be the most extreme of News Corp’s properties. Last month, YouTube suspended the conservative news channel for a week for breaching the platform’s coronavirus misinformation policy. Two years ago, one of its hosts labeled climate change “a fraudulent and dangerous cult” that was “driven by unscrupulous and sinister interests.”

At many of the company’s newspapers, where solid journalism often sits beside unrelenting ideology in articles that often do not carry an “opinion” label, the editorial project has been widely discussed over the past few weeks, often with a sense of relief.

Richie Merzian, the climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, a progressive research organization, said that News Corp should call for immediate action to reduce emissions.

“Really, they are moving from an F to a D student here,” he said. “The real risk is News Corp shifting from denying climate change to delaying climate action with nonsolutions and unaccountable long-term targets. Net zero by 2050 is almost useless if it is not enforced, if it has no short-term ambition and if there is no accompanying commitment to stop opening up new coal mines and new gas fields.”

Professor Mann, whose book “The New Climate War” looks closely at what he calls “inactivists” — the polluters, politicians and media outlets that have opposed climate action — said that News Corp may have simply realized that denial in the face of increasingly harsh climate events, especially the horrific 2019-20 bush fires in Australia, was no longer tenable.

“They’ve turned to other tactics — delay, distraction, deflection, division, etc. — in their effort to maintain the fossil fuel status quo,” he said by email. “Focusing on a target of 2050, three decades away, kicks the can so far down the road that it’s largely meaningless. It allows the cynics to appeal to promises of new technology (carbon capture, geoengineering, etc.) decades down the road as a crutch for continuing business-as-usual fossil fuel burning.”

9 Responses to “Climate Change in Hell? Murdoch Australian Papers will Now Support Science”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Gods I hope this is real!

  2. jimbills Says:

    Okay, but am I reading that right when it says that it’s a 16 day campaign only (meaning, it might not continue after that), it will appear in the tabloids only and not The Australian, they won’t force their other commentators to speak similarly, and this is for Australia only?

    • jimbills Says:

      ED: 16 page spread on one day, campaign runs in tabloids only for two weeks, conservatives should “reframe” their arguments, The Australian will
      “continue to temper” its denial, Australia only mentioned for the change because of local pushback there. Pretty radical stuff – better than nothing, sure, but I’m not going to give them many kudos.

  3. redskylite Says:

    News Corp Australia’s change in direction, even if temporary, remains to be read and confirmed, National Geographic remained to be unsullied by a partnership with Murdoch enterprises, so there is hope.

    Fact checking and publicity remains a powerful tool against misinformation (often appearing in Murdoch’s media interests), and it does seem to be effective. climatefeedback.org is one such site worth checking up on.
    ==================================================

    “Fact-checking reduces belief in misinformation and leaves a more enduring mental imprint than false claims, according to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows fact-checking is an effective tool to combat misinformation across countries, cultures, and political environments. ”

    https://mediarelations.gwu.edu/new-international-study-shows-fact-checks-significantly-reduce-belief-misinformation

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    From October 17, the company will run a two-week campaign that will advocate for a carbon net zero target to be reached by 2050, which is expected to focus heavily on jobs in a decarbonised economy, particularly blue-collar industries such as mining, resources and agriculture.

    These days I see 2050 as the new minimum that denialists/laggards think they can get away with, as if people in 2045 will be smiling in their transition to new green jobs in between food riots.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Yes, exactly, rhymes,
      The editorial change amounts to an announcement that Now that we’ve launched innumerable cruise missile-like politicians and internet trolls, who continue to carom around bumping into things and now and then blowkng up, some of us will sort of stop saying “stop all solutions” and instead will start saying “wait forever to start all solutions.” And some of us won’t do that.

      We can all relax knowing the crisis is over.

  5. J4Zonian Says:

    As always, the people at (Aussie) Breakthrough Inst. are way ahead.

    When Murdoch endorses the “Net zero 2050” climate goal, you know it is the problem and not the answer
    by David Spratt
    http://www.climatecodered.org/2021/09/when-murdoch-endorses-net-zero-2050.html

    Trickery in climate neutrality – How “net zero” is secretly being redefined
    http://www.climatecodered.org/2021/06/trickery-in-climate-neutrality-how-net.html

    Other articles on the subject abound at the Climate Code Red site

    And their report What Lies Beneath: The Scientific Understatement of Climate Risks is brilliant.

    George Monbiot
    “There’s no joy in being proved right. Instead, a grinding frustration and anger that our warnings were repeatedly ignored, dismissed or mocked, only to be vindicated.
    I’ve had 36 f***ing years of this, and I can scarcely bear it.”


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